The Food and Drug Administration said it had relented on the deadline for compliance to give companies more time to rearrange their businesses to carry out the rule.
WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) delayed by a year the deadline for the nation’s chain restaurants, pizza parlors and movie theaters to post calorie counts on their menus in what consumer advocates said was a setback for public health.
Pressure had been growing to delay the rule, which was proposed in November. Food companies — in particular the pizza industry — had campaigned against it, saying it was onerous and in many cases useless as most Americans order pies over the phone and not in a restaurant, where they would see a menu. Bills in the House and Senate included provisions that would have delayed the rule.
The agency said Thursday that it had relented on the deadline for compliance, to give companies more time to rearrange their businesses to carry out the rule. Critics said the delay was not a fatal blow, but was worrisome, as it would give the restaurant and grocery industries more time to lobby against the measure.
“This is a huge victory for the restaurant lobbyists,” said Marion Nestle, a professor in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. “Food companies must be hoping that if they can delay menu labeling long enough, it will just go away.”
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Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at the FDA, said the rule’s final implementation would be in December 2016. He said the decision to extend the deadline came after “extensive dialogue” with restaurants, grocery stores and other business that would be covered.
Menu labeling became law in 2010 as part of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, and the FDA issued a proposal for how it should be carried out in 2011. But the final rules were delayed for three years, due in part to opposition from some national chains, including pizza restaurants and movie theaters.
When the agency finally announced the rules, they were far stronger and more sweeping than consumer advocates were expecting, covering food in vending machines and amusement parks, and certain prepared foods in supermarkets. They applied to food establishments with 20 or more outlets, from fast-food chains such as KFC and Subway to sit-down restaurants such as Applebee’s and The Cheesecake Factory.
The administration backed away from covering movie theaters in 2011, when the Obama administration was trying to avoid criticism for what detractors saw as onerous regulations.
The delay may have been more about bureaucracy than industry influence. Many who supported the rule said the agency had not yet issued a crucial guidance document that would have helped the industry understand how to carry out the rule.
Even some of its strongest backers, including Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., had called on the agency to delay it.